Popular advice for travelers is to eat your way around your destination and this could not be more true for Granada. One of the few remaining cities in Spain who proudly adhere to the tradition of serving tapas on the house, Granada is a delightful trip for the the taste buds. Spend your days wandering through the impressive architecture of the city, or meandering through the modern street art, and finish by watching the sun set and sampling some delicious Spanish cuisine served complimentary with a refreshing drink.
The dominating feature of Granada is undeniably the romantic Alhambra. It is one of Europe’s finest examples of Moorish culture, characterised by an enchanting air of ancient spirits and medieval culture. It was a palace-fortress of the Nasrid Sultans, the final leaders of the Moorish Spanish Kingdom and the building reveals the spectacular culture of this time. The Alhambra has a tumultuous history, being used as a fortress-palace complex by the Nasrid emirs, going through a series of religious transformations following the Christian re-conquest, and even being used as barracks during the Napoleonic occupation. Much of the site has been restored, but with careful attention to stay true to its history.
Within the Alhambra is the Palatio de los Leones, a stunning and iconic square containing a marble fountain that channelled water through the mouths of 12 carved marble lions. Each of the 12 lions are speculated to symbolise many things. Overlooking the fountain is the Palacio de los Leones, historically used as the royal harem and a spectacularly beautiful building. The gallery is vibrant and ornately decorated and the marble columns are often hung with attractive textiles. Surrounding the patio are many buildings worth exploring such as the Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings) and the Sala de las Dos Hermanas (Hall of Two Sisters), containing art, fountains and all paying tribute to the romantic culture of the past.
Located in the heart of Granada, its Cathedral is an impressive example of Spanish renaissance architecture. The interior is ornately decorated in gold with rising white columns and intricate stained glass windows. As the light peaks through the images on the windows, the vibrancy of colours reflected on the white walls illuminates the Cathedral magnificently. Next to the Cathedral is the Capilla Real Granada, the tomb of the notorious Catholic Monarchs. In September 1504, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand decided that Granada was to be their final resting place and the royal chapel began to be built resulting in a masterpiece of gothic art. The royal mausoleums include marble figures of the monarchs and through a glass frame you can spy the royal coffins. One of the first and biggest Plateresque altarpieces in Spain, the main altarpiece is a stunning carvings of the historical and religious past of the Catholic Kings.
Monasterio de la Cartuja is another stunning window into the religious past of Granada. Built by the Carthusian monks between the 16th and 18th centuries the baroque monastery church is a popular sight for tourists. The sanctuary behind the main altar is a riot of colour, with striking columns and sculptures. The whole baroque style architecture is stunning and the area makes for a relaxing wander and tribute to the skilled workmanship of the period.
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Indeed, the architectural sights of Granada can easily fill your time, but there are also some interesting museums worth visiting. The Museo Sefardi pays tribute to the Sephardic Jews, many of who were expelled en masse in 1492 but a small number of still remain living in Granada today. The Huerta de San Vicente is the house of Federico Garcia Lorca, who spent summers in Granada writing some of his most noteworthy works. Another museum paying tribute to a great artists, is the Casa-Museo Manuel de Falla, which explores the life of one of Spain’s greatest classical composoers Manuel de Falla through enthralling guided tours.
Visitors without a doubt praise Granada for its tapas culture. Buy a drink and get a free tapas. This glorious part of Spanish culture is a truly enchanting aspect of a trip to Spain and encourages you to try all sorts of new delicacies. Calamari, Patatas Bravas, manchego cheese, olives and other mouth-watering accompaniments are served to compliment every drink.
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Granada has a vibrant student population and the nightlife is thriving everywhere. Whether you’re Tapa-hopping ‘Grana’ino ‘tyle or partying in a big club, or perhaps enjoying some live music you’re sure to have an exciting experience. Each barrio in the city has a different character. El centro, el albaicin and el realejo are home to the biggest and busiest clubs, whereas smaller areas on the fringes of town host some great live music scenes.
Have you ever visited Granada before? Let us know your favourite part in the comments below.
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(Cover photo courtesy of elguialocal.com)